Divide a Crepe Myrtle?

August 5, 2008 | By | Comments (91)

Q: Hi, I live in southern Alabama, and just purchased some Arapaho crepe myrtles in seven gallon containers. A couple of the crepes have two trunks coming up from the root ball and each of the trunks branch out about eighteen inches up. These trunks look like they could be separated into two trees. Would you recommend dividing them?
Thank you, Clay

A: No, I wouldn’t try dividing them, until you want two dead crepe myrtles in place of a live one. The easiest way I’ve found to propagate a crepe myrtle is by severing one of the larger roots in the ground. The severed piece will invariably send up a sucker, which you can dig and transplant. Spring and fall are good times to transplant. Of course, the plant has to be in the ground for a year or two before you do this.


  1. Grumpy Gardener


    Sorry about the crepe murder, but you can let the plant grow back. Select 3-4 well-spaced shoots that are growing up from the stump and let them be. They will become the new main trunks. Prune off all others. In a few years, you’ll have a normal looking crepe myrtle again — if you can keep your housemate away from it.

    May 20, 2016 at 1:52 pm
  2. sharyn

    my house mate, that knows nothing about gardening, has cut a beautiful mature crepe myrtle down to the ground and is thinking the suckers at the bottom can be left and grown into a shrub….is she crazy (as i think she is) the tree she wacked was about 15 feet tall

    May 19, 2016 at 12:05 am
  3. Grumpy Gardener


    Smooth trunks develop as the plant gets older. Just keep pruning off the side shoots and eventually they won’t sprout any more.

    February 23, 2016 at 3:04 pm
  4. Debbie

    How do I achieve smooth trunks? I pruned off all the small growth leaves on the lower part of my crepe and they just grew right back in a few weeks with a vengeance. I see lots of crepes around town with trunks as smooth as a babies bum and no one is out there pruning them constantly. What am I not doing right?

    February 16, 2016 at 6:21 pm
  5. Paige

    Be not afraid. I received a Tuskegee as gift in a 20 gallon pot. Put in on one side of driveway then the other then took a hacksaw divided the root ball with its four main stalks into two. Twenty years later have two gigantic trees on either side of driveway that I just prune/top every year at 6 feet above my roof for a beautiful spring/summer canopy of lilac blooms.

    January 4, 2015 at 6:59 pm
  6. Steve Bender


    Crepe myrtles are easy to propagate by sowing seed or by taking cuttings.

    August 28, 2014 at 1:09 pm
  7. Donna Philo

    Can I take cuttings from my Crepe Myrtle? If I plant one of the seeds, will it grow?

    August 25, 2014 at 12:23 am
  8. Steve Bender


    Yes, you can take cuttings from the branches. But select branches that have firmed up and are no longer soft and flimsy. Strip off the bottom two sets of leaves and then stick the cut ends in rooting powder. Then stick the cuttings in pots filled with moist potting soil. Place the pots in the shade and keep the soil moist. The cuttings should start growing roots in several weeks.

    July 10, 2014 at 11:32 am
  9. Carol Scott

    Can cuttings be taken from crepe myrtles (small top limbs were damaged and needed to be removed)

    July 3, 2014 at 1:19 pm
  10. Steve Bender

    Let the new suckers come up. Then select 4-5 that are well-spaced and growing up and out. Cut all others to the ground. The ones you left will become the new main trunks. As they grow this year, remove any side branches that grow from then. From then on, follow these pruning directions: http://thedailysouth.southernliving.com/2009/02/24/what-concerns-p/

    June 25, 2014 at 10:14 am
  11. carolyn

    I live in New Jersey and we had a very bad winter. I have had my crepe myrtle at least 5 years. This summer it did not come back. I have notice suckers coming from the bottom. Should I leave them grow or dig the whole tree out.

    June 21, 2014 at 12:33 pm
  12. Steve Bender

    Although this is by no means the preferred way to transplant a crepe myrtle, sometimes you have no choice. And you’re right — it’s one tough plant.

    December 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm
  13. christine

    I have transplanted 4 VERY large crepes…probably 9-10 feet tall. 2 of them were RIPPED out of the ground by a rope and tractor at a neighbors house because he did not want them. I transplanted them in the fall and cut them back to “trunks” because the branches were broken and severly injured from the removal. They came back in the spring! Crepes are TOUGH! I would try taking the myrtle with you if it is important to you dig it up as carefully as possible and transplant it at your new home, cut back the folage…. if it starts to wilt cut back the foliage severly…….and water it ALOT!
    YES crepe suckers will grow IF they have any bit of root material.

    December 9, 2012 at 9:54 am
  14. kristin

    if i dig up a crepe myrtle sucker will it grow to be a tree im trying to start my own crepe myrtle and i dont know what to do HELP

    August 22, 2012 at 10:05 am
  15. Robin

    my crepe myrtle sends off suckers that I would like to transplant along our property line. Is there a way this can be done successfully especially since it is a vacation property so we are only there about once a month so watering is a problem.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm
  16. Steve Bender

    Let the suckers get about 3 feet tall and then treat them according to label directions with Brush Killer or Brush-B-Gon. The suckers will absorb the chemical, take it down to the roots, and kill them.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:56 am
  17. Ellis Whitt

    I had my crepe myrtles cut down and the sumps ground up and now sprouts are coming up from the roots. How can I eliminate them?

    August 2, 2012 at 11:21 am
  18. Steve Bender


    Unfortunately, the crepe myrtle is too big to safely transplant now.The only way I think you could do it is to cut all the top growth off, leaving just stumps, and then diggging and moving a moist root ball. Put the root ball in the ground as quickly as possible and water thoroughly. Good luck!


    If the crepe myrtle is wilting badly, removing some of the foliage may help, as this will reduce water lost from the leaves.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm
  19. Theresa

    We just transplanted a 20 ft tall Crape and was wondering if we should cut it back to help it survive?

    July 31, 2012 at 7:30 pm
  20. Tab

    It is about 10 ft tall and has been in for 2 years. When we purchased the tree it was fairly mature.

    July 19, 2012 at 11:55 am
  21. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Moving a crepe myrtle now and not having it die from transplanting shock will be difficult. How big is it and how long has it been there?

    July 16, 2012 at 10:44 am
  22. Tab

    I have a question, we are moving to a house basically around the corner from us and I have this BEAUTIFUL red crepe myrtle that I LOVE and want to take with me. How can I successfully transplant this tree that is already in bloom? My husband gave me this tree a few years ago as a gift and I want to keep it.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm
  23. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    The number you should plant depends on the size they will be at maturity. If you are planting dwarfs that get only 3 feet tall, you could use 4 or 5. If you are planting semi-dwarfs that get 10 to 12 feet tall, plant 3 at most.

    June 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm
  24. Darlene

    I am trying to determine if I should plant three or four crepe myrtles in a flower bed that is appx. 22 feet long. How far apart should they be planted? What would you suggest?

    June 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm
  25. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    There are lots of crepe myrtle selections out there and they differ in appearance quite a bit. Without a good photo, I’m afraid I can’t ID the ones you saw.

    June 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm
  26. Thomas

    Ive seen some crepe myrtles with a whitish sort of bark but then on a recent trip to Disney I noticed some single trunk trees that have leaves and flowers similar to crepe myrtles but with a smooth twisted look to the trunks. Are they different trees altogether or a variation of the crepe myrtle?

    June 19, 2012 at 10:35 pm
  27. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    You can’t really divide your pink crepe myrtle. And it’s so big that if you try to move it right now, it will die. You will have to wait until after it drops its leaves in fall. Prune it just before you move it to make the job easier. Not sure what the bugs are. Crepe myrtles don’t have too many bug problems.

    June 10, 2012 at 10:00 am
  28. Lori McKendry-Bartley

    I had 3 – 20 yr old, 15′-20′ crepe myrtle trees, (2 white, fairly delicate, 1 medium pink, lots hardier) that needed to be moved due to severe erosion in our yard. Now that the white crepes have been transplanted in a neighbor’s yard, I’d like to keep and move the pink, which has, incredibly, 8 trunks – 3 ‘pairs’ and two singles. But this one is SO wide (spread of 12′)and overgrown (never trained), it will not fit in my proposed location. If divided to 2 – 4 cane trees, both would still be very full if they survived.
    1)Is there any safe way to divide or should I just give it to someone who can keep it intact?
    2) These crepes seem to have tons of bugs on and around them constantly. Is this normal?
    3) The white trees were easier than I’d thought to dig up, however the pink has tons more roots & they seem to be deeper, thicker, and more intertwined. After nearly 2 hrs of digging out dirt 6″ deep and 6′ around the trunks the roots are exposed, but trunks are still solidly in the ground and show no sign of loosening. Suggestions?

    June 4, 2012 at 12:33 am
  29. Ashlea

    Great! That’s good news. Thank you for your help!

    May 21, 2012 at 2:04 pm
  30. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    The suckers growing from the bottom will eventually grow into a tree. So cut off all the dead and let these grow.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:25 am
  31. Ashlea

    I had bought a Crepe two falls ago. The main tree never flowered the next Spring/Summer (and is obviously dead), however, there are what I am assuming are suckers growing from the bottom. Will these grow into a tree or is there anything I can do to use these to grow a tree?

    May 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm
  32. Trobichaux

    I am looking for 3-4 Twilight single trunk crepe myrtles for urchase at a reasonable price. (10-15 gal should be good). But I can’t find them anywhere. I am most concerned that they be purple not lavender, full size and single trunk. Anyone have any suggestions on where to buy or order for So. Louisiana?

    May 13, 2012 at 7:29 pm
  33. Trobichaux

    I am looking for 3-4 Twilight single trunk crepe myrtles for urchase at a reasonable price. (10-15 gal should be good). But I can’t find them anywhere. I am most concerned that they be purple not lavender, full size and single trunk. Anyone have any suggestions on where to buy or order for So. Louisiana?

    May 13, 2012 at 7:29 pm
  34. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    The sucker should grow into the same kind, shape, and size as the one you got it from. I can’t tell you for sure whether it will survive winter in a pot, because I don’t know how cold it gets there in winter. If it drops much below 20 degrees, I would plant it in the ground this fall.

    September 1, 2011 at 2:41 pm
  35. amy

    Was also wondering about the type. I think the small plant I got from my neighbor was a sucker from her giant one. Her’s is a bush, will I be able to grow mine into the beautiful tall ones with several trunks?

    August 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm
  36. amy

    I got a Crepe Myrtle baby, given to me by my neighbor. I admit, I am not a very good gardener, but have managed to get it to grow about a foot! But that’s as tall as it is and it is potted for now. I was unsure if I should plant it in the ground now (8/28/11) or wait until the spring. Will it survive the winter in it’s pot? I gave it some good potting soil with fertilizer in it already and keep it watered and in the sun. I am afraid the roots will outgrow the pot tho. I am unsure what to do with it now tho. Please help! will be anxiously awaiting your answer.

    August 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm
  37. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Crepe myrtles don’t have to have just one trunk. Most have several. If the shoots of the downed tree are still attached to the original trunk, then the tree will come back in its original color. You just have to train selected shoots to become new trunks.

    August 8, 2011 at 2:59 pm
  38. Devi

    I live in Las Vegas,NV. We were subjected to some very high winds recently, but I was stunned to see my 4 yr old, 15′ crepe myrtle blown across the yard laying on its side. I was heartbroken. We have shoots shooting up in its place. Are these just suckers? or will these be tree trunks of the future? Is there a downside if we keep three main trunks?

    August 7, 2011 at 11:43 pm
  39. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Betsy, you are a saint.

    August 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm
  40. Betsy

    Great. Thank you. That smooth, sculptural look is what I am after. I bought Pink Velour and Purple Catawba and am planting them now. It was quite a journey to learn enough about this vast subject to select appropriately. Really appreciate your guidance and help. Now I will follow your other articles in order to give these trees the best life I can, and I will never subject them to Crepe Murder! Betsy

    August 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm
  41. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    In general, the smaller crepe myrtles lack the spectacular bark coloration of the big ones with Native American names, like ‘Natchez.’ However, if you prune them correctly (no crepe murder), they will develop smooth, sculptural trunks like the others.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:14 am

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